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This is a lesson plan that explores principles of electromagnetic radiation, developed to help teachers integrate engineering practices in the secondary classroom. Students test the limitations of infrared using a television remote control and devise a plan for adapting infrared to work around a corner or between two rooms. The driving question of the lesson:  How do engineers apply infrared technology in devices to satisfy different requirements?

The lesson follows a module format that includes objectives and learner outcomes, problem sets, student guides, recommended reading, illustrated procedures, worksheets, and background information about the engineering connections. This collection is part of TryEngineering.org, maintained by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
Editor's Note: We suggest supplementing this lab with interactive digital resources that allow students to visualize infrared radiation as part of the electromagnetic spectrum. See Related Materials for links to recommended simulations and video.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education Practices
- Active Learning
Electricity & Magnetism
- Electromagnetic Radiation
= Electromagnetic Spectrum
General Physics
- Equipment
= Electronic Equipment
Oscillations & Waves
- Wave Motion
= Interference and Diffraction
Other Sciences
- Engineering
- Middle School
- High School
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Laboratory
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
= Student Guide
- Audio/Visual
= Image/Image Set
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Laboratory
- Assessment
- New teachers
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Safety Warnings
Minimal Danger   No Safety Equipment Necessary  

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Free access
© 2007 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
EM spectrum, IR data transmission, IR imaging, IR spectroscopy, Night Vision, applied physics, engineering activity, engineering lessons, infrared energy, infrared spectroscopy, remotes, spectroscopy, thermal radiation
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created July 27, 2012 by Gnana Subramaniam
Record Updated:
August 14, 2016 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
December 4, 2010

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

3. The Nature of Technology

3A. Technology and Science
  • 9-12: 3A/H1. Technological problems and advances often create a demand for new scientific knowledge, and new technologies make it possible for scientists to extend their research in new ways or to undertake entirely new lines of research. The very availability of new technology itself often sparks scientific advances.

4. The Physical Setting

4E. Energy Transformations
  • 6-8: 4E/M3. Thermal energy is transferred through a material by the collisions of atoms within the material. Over time, the thermal energy tends to spread out through a material and from one material to another if they are in contact. Thermal energy can also be transferred by means of currents in air, water, or other fluids. In addition, some thermal energy in all materials is transformed into light energy and radiated into the environment by electromagnetic waves; that light energy can be transformed back into thermal energy when the electromagnetic waves strike another material. As a result, a material tends to cool down unless some other form of energy is converted to thermal energy in the material.
  • 6-8: 4E/M6. Light and other electromagnetic waves can warm objects. How much an object's temperature increases depends on how intense the light striking its surface is, how long the light shines on the object, and how much of the light is absorbed.
4F. Motion
  • 6-8: 4F/M8. There are a great variety of electromagnetic waves: radio waves, microwaves, infrared waves, visible light, ultraviolet rays, X-rays, and gamma rays. These wavelengths vary from radio waves, the longest, to gamma rays, the shortest.
  • 9-12: 4F/H6ab. Waves can superpose on one another, bend around corners, reflect off surfaces, be absorbed by materials they enter, and change direction when entering a new material. All these effects vary with wavelength.

8. The Designed World

8D. Communication
  • 6-8: 8D/M2. Information can be carried by many media, including sound, light, and objects. In the 1900s, the ability to code information as electric currents in wires, electromagnetic waves in space, and light in glass fibers has made communication millions of times faster than mail or sound.
  • 9-12: 8D/H2a. The quality of communication is determined by the strength of the signal in relation to the noise that tends to obscure it.

12. Habits of Mind

12C. Manipulation and Observation
  • 6-8: 12C/M5. Analyze simple mechanical devices and describe what the various parts are for; estimate what the effect of making a change in one part of a device would have on the device as a whole.
12D. Communication Skills
  • 6-8: 12D/M8. Explain a scientific idea to someone else, checking understanding and responding to questions.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments

Statistics and Probability (6-8)

Summarize and describe distributions. (6)
  • 6.SP.4 Display numerical data in plots on a number line, including dot plots, histograms, and box plots.
  • 6.SP.5.a Reporting the number of observations.
  • 6.SP.5.b Describing the nature of the attribute under investigation, including how it was measured and its units of measurement.

Common Core State Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects 6—12

Key Ideas and Details (6-12)
  • RST.6-8.3 Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (6-12)
  • RST.6-8.7 Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).
Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity (6-12)
  • RST.6-8.10 By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 6—8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

Common Core State Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects 6—12

Text Types and Purposes (6-12)
  • 1. Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content. (WHST.6-8.1)
Research to Build and Present Knowledge (6-12)
  • WHST.6-8.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: Electromagnetism and Electromagnets
Unit Title: Electromagnetic Radiation and the Spectrum

Kids test the limitations of infrared technology using a TV remote control. After gathering data, they devise a plan for adapting infrared to work around a corner or between rooms. Great way to integrate engineering practice into the physical science classroom. Resource includes teacher and student guides, background information, illustrated procedures, and worksheets.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
(Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 2007), WWW Document, (http://tryengineering.org/lesson-plans/infrared-investigations).
TryEngineering: Infrared Investigations, (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 2007), <http://tryengineering.org/lesson-plans/infrared-investigations>.
APA Format
TryEngineering: Infrared Investigations. (2010, December 4). Retrieved January 22, 2017, from Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers: http://tryengineering.org/lesson-plans/infrared-investigations
Chicago Format
International Business Machines. TryEngineering: Infrared Investigations. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, December 4, 2010. http://tryengineering.org/lesson-plans/infrared-investigations (accessed 22 January 2017).
MLA Format
TryEngineering: Infrared Investigations. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 2007. 4 Dec. 2010. International Business Machines. 22 Jan. 2017 <http://tryengineering.org/lesson-plans/infrared-investigations>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {TryEngineering: Infrared Investigations}, Publisher = {Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers}, Volume = {2017}, Number = {22 January 2017}, Month = {December 4, 2010}, Year = {2007} }
Refer Export Format

%T TryEngineering: Infrared Investigations
%D December 4, 2010
%I Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
%U http://tryengineering.org/lesson-plans/infrared-investigations
%O application/pdf

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D December 4, 2010
%T TryEngineering: Infrared Investigations
%I Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
%V 2017
%N 22 January 2017
%8 December 4, 2010
%9 application/pdf
%U http://tryengineering.org/lesson-plans/infrared-investigations

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TryEngineering: Infrared Investigations:

Is Supplemented By PBS Learning Media: Infrared Gallery

Interactive image gallery produced for Teachers' Domain lets students "see" the heat radiated by common objects via infrared photography.

relation by Caroline Hall
Same topic as Teachers' Domain: Tour of the EM Spectrum - Infrared

5-minute video from NASA explores the way scientists use technology to "see" infrared light and how it is used to map conditions on Earth's surface.

relation by Caroline Hall
Is Supplemented By Introduction to The Electromagnetic Spectrum

A NASA-created website introduces students to EM waves and their behaviors. Comprehensive, robust, and appropriate for Grades 6-12.

relation by Caroline Hall
Covers the Same Topic As Science NetLinks: Sensing the Invisible: The Herschel Experiment

Middle school lab activity from Science NetLinks lets students discover through inquiry that there is radiation other than visible light being emitted from the sun.

relation by Caroline Hall

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